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Earth dating methods

Absolute dates must agree with dates from other relative methods in order to be valid.

Relative dating methods are used to determine only if one sample is older or younger than another.

Absolute dating methods are used to determine an actual date in years for the age of an object.

With sensitive instrumentation, this range can be extended to 70,000 years.

In addition to the radiocarbon dating technique, scientists have developed other dating methods based on the transformation of one element into another.

The age of the remains of plants, animals, and other organic material can be determined by measuring the amount of carbon-14 contained in that material.

Carbon-14, a radioactive form of the element carbon, is created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays (invisible, high-energy particles that constantly bombard Earth from all directions in space).

Radioactive decay: The predictable manner in which a population of atoms of a radioactive element spontaneously disintegrate over time.

Stratigraphy: Study of layers of rocks or the objects embedded within those layers.

Since certain species of animals existed on Earth at specific times in history, the fossils or remains of such animals embedded within those successive layers of rock also help scientists determine the age of the layers.

Similarly, pollen grains released by seed-bearing plants became fossilized in rock layers.

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